It’s hard to get a sweep on the road, even against a bad team. The Orioles did well in their series against the Rays to win the first two games. They already won by winning the series. Yet in what seems to be a disappointing Orioles fashion, they played a dismal series finale to bum us all out again, losing a completely winnable game to the Rays, 7-6.
In general, there will be a tough time winning a baseball game in which the starting pitcher gives up five runs. Orioles starter Dylan Bundy had the full Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) in the contest, an unfortunate scenario when considering that the O’s scored five runs against the Rays starter, longtime Orioles destroyer Drew Smyly.
There are some games where Bundy starts where you just wonder if pushing him to the end of the season is a good idea. The first game he started was such a game, and it also took place in the Trop against the Rays. Bundy had another one of those games today.
The Adam Jones Theory of Everything
When you lose a game by a 7-6 score, there are many reasons why you lose, but whatever may have contributed to the overall score, there is still only one play where the go-ahead run scores. The reason the Rays took the lead for the last time is The Adam Jones Theory of Everything, which Jones stated memorably earlier in the year: “Sometimes you suck.”
Let’s set the scene. Mychal Givens came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh inning to deal with pinch hitter Stephen Souza Jr. and the guys following him, with the score at that time tied 6-6. Givens struck out two of the first three batters he faced, allowing only a single to Mikie Mahtook. This brought up Corey Dickerson.
A lefty matchup is not great for Givens, yet Givens worked a 1-2 count on Dickerson before giving up a fly ball to deep center field with a hang time measured in geological time.
Jones, to be fair, had a long way to run to get to the ball. But he had forever to get to the ball. And he seemed to slow up before he reached the ball, and when he finally stuck his glove out for it, the ball caromed off the very tip of the glove.
It goes in the scorebook as a double, the run charged to Givens, who takes the loss, but in all likelihood any average defensive center fielder makes that play. The other center fielder in the game, Kevin Kiermaier, certainly would have. Jones on any other day, or even a different 20 second span of today, may well have made the play. Yet he didn’t make the play and this run was the difference in the game.
Jones even had a chance to atone for this the next half-inning. Recent acquisition Drew Stubbs, whose presence in the lineup may have seemed like a forfeit lineup signal, actually went 2-3 with a walk and drove in a run. That’s good! He drew the walk in the top of the eighth inning to lead off, and was immediately sacrificed over to second base by Caleb Joseph.
Joseph’s season being what it is, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea in a vacuum, though keep in mind the Orioles also had Hyun Soo Kim or Pedro Alvarez on the bench and two other catchers. Anyway, tying run in scoring position, one out, Jones due up.
Jones struck out on three pitches. All three were, in fact, strikes, so that’s something. Nonetheless, Jones was 0-5 with three strikeouts in the game. He had two opportunities with runners in scoring position that he duffed. Jones and Joseph were the only O’s starters not to record a hit.
Other reasons for losing
If you were watching the game in the fourth inning as Bundy was unraveling while the Orioles had a 5-3 lead, you had to have been wondering why there was such a long hook. Yes, it was just the fourth inning, but Bundy crossed over 80 pitches and it’s September call-up season. There are pitchers out there to eat the innings, especially with a day off tomorrow.
Mahtook led off the inning with a single. OK, fine. It happens. Yet Bundy walked Nick Franklin on four pitches. He rallied to get the next two batters out and almost got out of his own jam... but then he walked Logan Forsythe, also on four pitches, and he just seemed to be laboring.
The bases were loaded. Kevin Kiermaier was at the plate. Kiermaier, who seems to be another one of those Orioles destroyer players - including ranging far to rob Joseph of an extra-base hit that would have scored two runs in the second inning - had already homered in the game. Why leave in Bundy to pitch to him?
Perhaps Buck Showalter had more faith in Bundy than he did in the warming reliever, Oliver Drake. Drake coughed up a run in the next inning, after coming into the game, so perhaps Showalter’s lack of faith was reasonable, yet he could have warmed a different reliever, but did not.
The result was Kiermaier roping a two run single into left field, plating the tying runs for the Rays, and Bundy was only then yanked from the contest. The barn door was closed at last. The horse, was long gone.
A playoff team should win a game where it scores six runs against a last place team. It should not let a horrible offensive team have its 6-9 hitters rack up eight hits and drive in four runs.
If the Orioles miss the postseason - or narrowly fail to win the AL East and are instead saddled with the wild card game - this loss will be one of the ones to look back on and sigh.
The Orioles are off on Thursday before starting a crucial three game series against the Tigers on Friday night. Kevin Gausman and Michael Fulmer are the scheduled starters for the 7:10 opener.
And those same Tigers are winning their afternoon game as of this writing, so the two teams will likely begin the series tied for the second wild card spot.
Update: The Tigers lost. Thank you, Tigers bullpen. The Orioles will enter the weekend series with a one game edge.